The King has just fled the country, the crowd is starting to riot, and the clergy are furtively exchanging notes with the worried Feuillants. Suddenly the president announces that Prussian forces have advanced to Paris and someone is needed to lead the army. After a pause, General Lafayette announces, “I have been a faithful military leader for France all of my life. I beg that you will consider electing me for your own safety!” A Jacobin quickly confronts him: “This army belongs to the people! It will never be loyal to you!”

No, it’s not exactly the French Revolution. Rather, it’s a group of students in McConnell Hall, meeting every Monday and Wednesday evening to re-enact the historic events.

After the Assembly passes a law establishing marriage as a civil matter rather than a spiritual one, Antoine Saint-Just, played by Amanda Miller '17, proposes to Maximillen Robespierre (Mohona Chowdhury '17) as Amanda Emily Rabe '16 officiates.

After the Assembly passes a law establishing marriage as a civil matter rather than a spiritual one, Antoine Saint-Just, played by Amanda Miller ’17, proposes to Maximillen Robespierre (Mohona Chowdhury ’17) as Amanda Emily Rabe ’16 officiates.

Reacting to the Past (FYS142) is an interdepartmental first-year seminar that incorporates live-action role-playing of historic events. Students in the course, taught by Patrick Coby, government, and Joshua Birk, history, relive and recreate the events of two significant time periods: the French Revolution and the court of Henry VIII. Each student is assigned to play a character—like Thomas Cromwell, Maximilien Robespierre, or a member of a faction, such as the Jacobins—delivering speeches, negotiating deals, and advancing the character’s goals.

Here are more scenes from this fall’s Reacting to the Past re-enactments.